Lex Fridman interviews Roger Penrose, a physicist, mathematician, and philosopher at University of Oxford.

He has made fundamental contributions in many disciplines from the mathematical physics of general relativity and cosmology to the limitations of a computational view of consciousness. This conversation is part of the Artificial Intelligence podcast.

Time Index:

  • 0:00 – Introduction
  • 3:51 – 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • 9:43 – Consciousness and computation
  • 23:45 – What does it mean to “understand”
  • 31:37 – What’s missing in quantum mechanics?
  • 40:09 – Whatever consciousness is, it’s not a computation
  • 44:13 – Source of consciousness in the human brain
  • 1:02:57 – Infinite cycles of big bangs
  • 1:22:05 – Most beautiful idea in mathematics

Why is it that we can see these multiple histories play out on the quantum scale, and why do lose sight of them on our macroscopic scale?

Many physicists believe that the answer lies in a process known as quantum decoherence.

Does conscious observation of a quantum system cause the wavefunction to collapse? The upshot is that more and more physicists think that consciousness – and even measurement – doesn’t directly cause wavefunction collapse.

In fact probably there IS no clear Heisenberg cut. The collapse itself may be an illusion, and the alternate histories that the wavefunction represents may continue forever. The question then becomes: why is it that we can see these multiple histories play out on the quantum scale, and why do lose sight of them on our macroscopic scale? Many physicists believe that the answer lies in a process known as quantum decoherence. 

It’s not surprising that the profound weirdness of the quantum world has inspired some outlandish explanations – nor that these have strayed into the realm of what we might call mysticism.

One particularly pervasive notion is the idea that consciousness can directly influence quantum systems – and so influence reality.

PBS Space Time examines where this idea comes from, and whether quantum theory really supports it.